9780888783783 / 0888783787

The Lion of Venice





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About the book:

While Mark Frutkin's The Lion of Venice retells the story of Marco Polo's long sojourn through the Middle East, Asia, and India, it is no fast-paced adventure tale. Instead of spinning a modernized yarn directly out of The Travels of Marco Polo, Frutkin has constructed a luxuriant fever dream out of Polo's life story, seeking the genesis of Polo's own miraculous book in the wanderings and imagined nightmares of history's most romantic business traveller.

The Marco Polo of The Lion of Venice is a strange, almost supernatural youth, gifted with extraordinarily keen hearing (sitting quietly, he can discern the conversations in all corners of the Khan's palace), who leaves for the Orient with his father and uncle, pursued by an assassin commissioned by the Doge of Venice. This assassin quickly becomes more than human, an angel of death tailing Polo to the vastnesses of Tibet and the coastal lagoons of China. Scenes from Polo's travels are interspersed with a dialogue between Polo and Rusticello, a poet incarcerated with Polo in Genoa who attempts to convince the traveller to reveal his almost unbelievable tales.

Frutkin is clearly enamoured of Jorge Luis Borges, and the heavy, luxuriant atmosphere of the master's Oriental writings pervades The Lion of Venice. One might wish for some of Borges's concision, but perhaps this would not be appropriate for a novel about an exile as long and labyrinthine as Polo's. --Jack Illingworth

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